Are your online selfies making you vulnerable to hackers? 4 scams to watch out for

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Be careful sending selfies – hackers are on the prowl. (photo: Getty)

Some online services ask you to confirm your identity by taking a picture of yourself with your photo ID. It’s the easiest way to verify you’re yourself… right? The bad news: If that selfie with your photo ID gets into the hands of scammers, they could potentially steal your identity. Here’s how the scam works and how to keep your guard up.

Scam #1: The Lure of a Prize

One tactic that hackers sometimes use to take a selfie of you with your photo ID is to exploit your excitement at the chance of a prize or money. For example, one afternoon you receive a phishing email with scams met [phishing means pretending to be from a reputable company but trying to trick you out of personal and sensitive information] to inform you that a payment or a prize is waiting for you. It’s practically a foregone conclusion, the email says. All you have to do is click on the link and take a quick little photo of you and your ID. Comfortable.

Except it’s a scam.

Clicking the link will take you to a phishing site designed to get rid of your personal information.

They get your login details. jab.

They install junk on your hardware. jab.

They let you take a picture of yourself with your id. Knockout.

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Scam #2: A phishing email pretending to be from a social media site

We all want one – the blue verified checkmark next to your username on your social media account that authenticates you as a user. That verification comes with social media credibility — and it can’t be bought. So it’s understandable that some people will do anything to get the check mark. And that’s where the problem starts, because scammers know this.

Beware of phishing emails that try to get you to send a selfie with your photo ID (Picture: Getty)

Beware of phishing emails that try to get you to send a selfie with your photo ID (Picture: Getty)

That desire there is why some hackers are able to get their grubby hands at your information. It comes in the form of an email asking you to click on the link to verify your social media account. It leads to a phishing page, which asks for all kinds of personal information that the scammers can use to steal your identity. But there is an easy way to protect yourself:

“If you get an email from [a social media site] the first thing to do is check the address where the email came from,” Melanie Musson, a security expert at tells Yahoo Life.

Musson warns not to just look at the name that appears in your inbox in that email — but to check the body of the email address to make sure it’s authentic. “If you’re looking from your computer, when you open the email, you’ll see the name the sender chose, followed by the email address. [social media site] followed by number” or something other than [social media site].com, red flags should start flying.”

She says that social media platforms always message you through the app. If in doubt, go directly to the website or app. “In the event that [the websites have] a message for you, it will appear on your account,” Musson says. “If the same post isn’t on their site, please submit your post [the platform’s security team].”

Scam #3: The Promise of Federal Money

With incentive money, tax season and many people looking for a job, scammers take advantage of this vulnerability and ask for photo verification before you can access work, funds or services.

The phishing email looks official and says it’s a communication email from a bank, payment system, or government agency that tells you to verify your identity.

If you click on the link, you will be taken to a page with a form that asks you to fill in account details, payment details, address, telephone number and to upload a selfie with a clearly visible identity card. They have your data – and if they have malware installed on your device, they can have your computer too.

“One of the most common ways attackers use malware is to launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, when cybercriminals force numerous devices to send requests to specific web servers to break the system and shut down traffic” , say James E. Lee, Chief Operating Officer, Identity Theft Resource Center. “Another use of malware is crypto mining, a malware attack that uses the target’s computer resources to mine cryptocurrency. Malware can also be used for keystroke logger attacks, where software records everything you type, such as your login and password.”

Smiling young woman showing her driver's license from open car window

Hackers don’t just want a photo of your ID – they want a photo of you with your ID. (photo: Getty)

Scam #4: A phishing email from scammers pretending to be a bank

Some legitimate services require a selfie with photo ID for registration, such as opening an online bank account. By sending a selfie of yourself with, for example, your driver’s license to scammers, these internet crooks can sell the information on the black market to other scammers. This information can be used by fraudsters to open bank accounts using your name and photo ID.

The road around it? If you get an email or social media message claiming to send a selfie with photo ID – stop. A financial institution will never ask for information – let alone a selfie with your driver’s license or passport, via social media or via email. Do not click on links and use your usual login methods to verify your account. All the information your bank needs to see is also placed in your secure portal.

In general, you should be very skeptical about requests to verify your identity. If you have any doubts about the validity of the request, you can call and ask. You won’t be the first to call and you won’t be the last. But wait! Do not use the number scammers mentioned in the email – instead get it from the official website. To keep you informed, you can purchase a reliable antivirus program with protection against phishing and online fraud.

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